Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A convicting book, an unfulfilling life, and other things

Just a moment ago I finally finished reading Elizabeth George's book Loving God With All Your Mind, which I got for Christmas. I had been reading it, but had to put it aside when school started and I had to do reading for that. This week I finally had a light reading week for school, so I decided to pick it up again, and I read it all day today.

The book is...well, I hesitate to say "amazing." I misuse that word a good deal. I guess "convicting" is a better word. I had read a little blurb about the book in a CBD catalog when I was thumbing through said catalog looking for books I might want to ask for for Christmas. But that did not prepare for me for the book's content.

I thought the book would primarily be about thoughts or the intellect, and part of it is about that. But it covers so much more, using six verses -- Philippians 4:8, Matthew 6:34, Philippians 3:13-14, Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, and Romans 11:33 -- to cover the topics of our thought life, the problem of worry, "pressing for the prize," "counting on God's goodness," living according to God's plan, and accepting things we don't understand. Such an interesting approach.

I was a bit cynical about the first section, which talked about only thinking about what is true and real -- about right now, not about the "if onlys" (the past) or the "what ifs" (the future), because the present is the only thing you have control over. (It vaguely reminds me of an oft-used quote that goes: "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the 'present'"). I agree that the past is gone and we can't do anything about it. But the future...we can't completely ignore it, right? I remember growing up being told all the time about having an "eternal perspective" cause this life is only temporary. Do stuff that matters for eternity, they say. That sounds like a plan-for-the-future-don't-just-live-for-the-here-and-now concept.

I have pretty much always been future-minded. I agonized (and still do) for long periods of time over what my major was going to be, because I didn't want to major in something, work in it for 20 years, and then realize I hated it and have to go back to school and what-not to start all over again. Also, in a sort of warped sense of spirituality, I was desperately trying to find some way to involve God in my plans, cause of the whole "God's will" thing, and also because I was afraid that if I just went with my own desires and instincts, I might look back, either later in this life or when my life is evaluated in the next, and realize I missed opportunities for God to use me because I went on the career path I wanted without knowing for sure if it was his will.

At the same time I have wallowed in the past. I prayed really hard for my grandma, who was ill with cancer, to live and find Jesus. But she died, and as far as I know she died without God. I was really mad at God. I guess I was expecting some sort of miracle like what had happened in junior high when I, along with a bunch of other people from our junior high group, prayed for one of the leaders's daughter to get well from a potentially fatal illness. And she did.

Just when I thought I was starting to get over my grandma's death, the Kyle debacle happened. His sister Rhoda, who I already knew, introduced us at TNL (Tuesday Night Live, the high school group at church) one night. He went to a different school than me, so we communicated primarily over the phone. We did see each other a few times. Being prompted by a friend, I invited him to our school's Christmas Progressive Dinner, which turned out to be very uncomfortable since the friend who suggested I invite him, who was supposed to show up with her boyfriend and hang out with me and Kyle, never showed up. Kyle didn't know anyone, and I'm not all that good at introducing friends to other people, so we ended up hanging out together, just us, pretty much the whole night. At the ice-skating rink that we all went to after going to houses for the food courses (the point of a progressive dinner), Kyle and I ended up on a bench by an empty rink, watching the guy go over it with a buffer thing. I was cold (naturally) and Kyle offered to put his arms around me to keep me warm. I let him. He put his arms around my waist. Nothing compromising happened, but it was very weird. I felt like I had done something wrong by allowing a guy to touch me like that.

Long story short, Kyle turned out not to be the Christian I thought he was and ended up being a insensitive, perverted jerk. Not only did he call me at times when his girlfriend was over, but I found out later he and his girlfriend had had sex. I already knew he was into the usual sexy images guys like, thanks to some comics he lent me of a series called Project A-ko (which almost became an installment of Cream Lemon, one of the most well-known hentai series). But somehow I ignored this, or something like that. Anyway, after his girlfriend clearly displayed her displeasure about what she perceived to be an invitation from me to her boyfriend to go to a school event with me (which wasn't true - while I had mentioned the event to him in small talk, since it was coming up, I never actually invited him), and Kyle didn't seem to care even though I confronted him with it, I had to break things off. The first stage of this process ended on Valentine's Day, 2001, when I told him not to call me as much (yes, on Valentine's Day). I finally ended all ties in August of that year by telling him not to call me anymore (he thought we were still in contact because Amy had convinced me to call him about Comic-Con, not knowing I'd broken things off with him). All was well for a bit, until I started at Mira Costa in the fall of 2003. One day during my first or second semester there, he showed up behind me -- totally randomly -- while I was at a Bible study for Intervarsity. I made it plain then and in subsequent encounters at the bus station that I wanted nothing to do with him. The last time I saw him, he said he was moving out of the area. Good riddance, I said. I haven't seen him since, and I've finally stopped agonizing about him, except at times when random things spark the memories of that time.

I suppose in the end I was better off, because as I said he and his girlfriend had sex. I don't think they were together that much longer after that. But I say I was better off because had I pursued a relationship with him despite my own reservations and those of my parents, the girl he pushed to have sex could have been me. And in a way, Rosanne (the girlfriend) was a Godsend, because it was her existence that kept me from pursuing a dating relationship with Kyle. I may be weak in areas of love -- falling for a guy emotionally way too fast, as my relationship with Kyle showed me all too well -- but I'm not stupid. You don't date a guy who's already attached. And guys don't have relationships with other girls when they're dating. There's a word for that: "two-timer." And generally, being a "two-timer" is really bad.

After all that, I lost my other grandma in my senior year of high school, and my grandfathers and an uncle in the years since. Also, I've been struggling with career choice, because I believe I have a talent in writing - one that can be used for God - and yet I have writer's block and unfinished manuscripts. I also have yet to "officially" win a writing contest (I got published in a couple poem books and in the 2003 edition of Anthology of Short Stories for Young Americans, but that wasn't cause I won so much as the fact that everyone who submitted something pretty much got published in those).

My Asperger's has posed a problem as well. I don't know what steps to take to get a firm diagnosis, and my mother promised she'd look up this guy her friend Laura knows, and she has yet to do so. As an adult, diagnosing the disease would be rather difficult anyway.

I also wallow in the past in regards to driving. I say, "if only I'd gotten my license at 16 like everybody else." I would probably have had a bigger job pool to choose from, I would be able to go and do things a lot easier (like going to museums and other places that would take most of a day to reach by public transit), and I wouldn't have been hit by a car (I was hit while jaywalking in my rush to catch a bus so as to make my connection to get home). Yet, I have met people on the bus who have become friends of a sort.

Also, I despair in my relationship situation. I've never dated a guy, and I'm 24. By the world's standards, I should have or should have had a boyfriend by now. I mean, people get married at my age. And I don't care if I seem younger -- people at work constantly think I'm 19 or 20 -- I am the age I am, halfway to thirty with no license, no car, no guy. Pretty depressing!

So anyway, I was saying that I was cynical about that first section. I was like, "It doesn't make any sense to only focus on now. What about planning for the future?" God condones that (just look at the famous "go to the ants, thou sluggard" passage). So I wasn't convinced.

The second section, though, hit me hard. It was on worry, and I am a perpetual worrywart. I worry about not being able to finish school in two years like I planned. I worry about the talking-to the morning person will get if I'm not able to finish my closing duties due to circumstances beyond my control (like having to help customers, either at the bakery or the service deli). I worry on occasion about my finances. I worry, even though I'm in a rather secure union job, that one little slip-up will tip the scales to the wrong side, and I'll get fired. (I think this stems from getting let go by Loaves and Fishes, partly cause I didn't work on social skills that I was supposed to work on, but wasn't sure how or chose not to address).

The following sections also spoke to me. The issues George was addressing were ones that spoke exactly to the struggles I'm having. I thought her recommendations good and practical, but was unsure how exactly to carry them out in my life.

Now I am in an awkward situation. This book has clearly convicted me, showing me areas I need to work on and showing how I really don't love God with all my mind. But another part of me doesn't want to put the things I've learned into practice. What motivates that side I'm not quite sure. Maybe it's the defense mechanisms I've used to shut myself off from others, being afraid to trust anyone since the Kyle affair, which for me felt like a breach of trust. Maybe it's the fact that that affair, along with the 5 deaths in my family and personal struggles, have made it hard for me to trust God. Maybe it's simply my seemingly instinctive fear of change (an instinct that may be a result of my Asperger's). More likely than not, it's past experience that motivates my anti-practice feelings -- I've had supposed "revivals" in my faith before, but they had no lasting impact on my life, to the point that I began to think they hadn't really happened, that I'd just made them up to make my Christian life appear to be going more smoothly than it actually was.

It's interesting that so much of George's book is about emotions, like worry for instance. It's common wisdom that the seat of our emotions is the heart. Hence we say, "I took it to heart," "He broke my heart," "She died of a broken heart," and so on. Even the Bible says to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind," as if the "heart" and the "mind" were separate things. Even I considered myself someone who knew Christ and Christianity in my head, but not in my heart. Like Sunni Gummi of the long-ago Gummi Bears show, I had the recipe for strength-giving Gummi Juice in my head but not my heart.

But then again, relating emotions to the mind makes sense -- our thoughts influence what we do, and the physical system that governs our emotions -- the limbic system -- is actually part of the brain.

I did a word search for both the Hebrew and Greek words used in that "love the Lord your God..." verse (which is originally in Hebrew but quoted in Greek in the New Testament) and the words all seemed somewhat related (except "strength") to the will. So it more or less says love God with your thoughts and your will. This goes with Jesus's words where he says, "If you love me, you will obey my commands."

The ever-popular "Message Bible," which speaks in today's language, reads like this: "Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!" That kind of summarizes it, I think (though perhaps in a bit too simplistic manner).


I need time to think about the book and what it says. Also, there's a Growth and Study Guide for this book. I think I will get it and use it when I read the book the second time.


On happier notes...

School has started and we are now in week 4. There's been lots of reading to do, and I spent a large amount of time (and print card money) today making photocopies from reference books for my author paper for US lit (basically a repeat of the paper I did last semester for Dr. Cucinella, just with a different author). I didn't have time to photocopy articles from the Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism books, but I did photocopy all the others, and I wrote down which articles I want from the Lit Crit books.

They're giving out SHAYMIN this week at Toys R Us for the Diamond & Pearl game, more likely than not to promote the US TV debut of Giratina and the Sky Warrior, the 11th Pokemon film and the place where Shaymin made its anime debut. I went and got it yesterday. I'm so happy. With the "$5 off any Pokemon game" coupon I got from this promotion, I bought Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time, which I have started playing. It seems rather interesting and cute. The Mystery Dungeon games, for those who don't know, are about a human (your character) who somehow gets turned into a Pokemon. You then (in your Poke-form) join up with other Pokemon to form teams that go out and get treasure (not unlike Final Fantasy, especially the Crystal Chronicles spin-offs). Your Poke-form is determined by a short personality quiz and "aura test" (conducted by having you place your finger on the touch screen) given at the beginning of the game. Being a naive, innocent female with a "mystical purple" aura, my Poke-form is a Skitty. I was a bit disappointed because I bought the game because it had Piplup in it, and I wanted to be Piplup. But no worries, I was able to pick Piplup as my partner Pokemon (a role, no doubt, akin to Montblanc's role in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance -- dang, I miss that game. I wish I hadn't lost it). I nicknamed my partner "Pip" (I almost did "Pippi," which is what I named the female baby Piplup I bred from my Empoleon, but not knowing the gender of my Poke-partner, I went with "Pip," a gender-safe choice). My own nickname was hard to pick. I thought about it, and finally went with "Lizzie."

The main reason I started already playing Mystery Dungeon was because I couldn't find the game of Imagine: Interior Designer, another game I bought recently, which I thought was in my bag in the pocket I'd put my DS in. But it wasn't. I rushed back to the locker room at work and looked under the lockers and in my locker and didn't find it, and it wasn't in my room when I came home. So I threw away the box. *sigh* Another game lost.

I got a new cell phone to replace my old one which has having problems. It's the Moto W755. Here's a pic:


Pretty cool looking, eh? I like it quite a bit. It doesn't have a ton of bells and whistles, but it does have a camera and a tip calculator (features I missed from my first cell phone) and even has the bonus of being an mp3 player and having the capability to record and send video messages. I also was able to download actual ringtones onto my phone using a free application called VZW Tones Deluxe. You have to pay for the ringtones but they're pretty cheap ($2.99 per ringtone). I got quite a few good ones already - a few Christian songs, a couple songs off the "Valentine's Day" feature list, and quite a few from the app's Motown feature list featured in honor of Black History Month.

Ok I am getting pretty tired (I didn't get a lot of sleep last night) so I am going to stop here. Good night.

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